Spare what!?! Spare time? I’m sorry, I have no clue what that is…

I have been facilitating a lot lately (which I am oh so grateful for), and although the topics have varied slightly, I have really noticed a trend; no one has any spare time.  It isn’t that I wasn’t aware of this, it just hit home when I was standing there, staring at all these faces, wistfully dreaming of the last time they were able to just sit down, have a coffee and read the paper.  Or get caught up with their best friend/brother/mother, or flex that good ol’ creativity muscle which no one can find anatomically, but that is entirely essential to our health and well-being.

If this sounds like you, then I have a few tips/tricks up my sleeve (although it’s so warm out, I’m sleeveless today – yay!) that may be of some assistance.  If you are not sure, my first question for you is regarding something I came up with called the “6:30/11:30 Phenomenon.”  That is, do you wake up at 6:30am and before you know it, it’s 11:30 at night and you have no clue where your day went?  Does this happen to you more times than you can count?  i.e. is this your daily reality?  If so, then you should keep reading 😉

The second thing I ask people is, how are these precious minutes in your day being spent?  And if you fall into the 6:30/11:30 category this might be incredibly difficult for you to answer.  To that I suggest, for 4-5 days (including both the weekend and work week) jot down not only how your time is being spent, but who is spending your time.  For a number of us that struggle with that terrifying two-letter word, “no”, the who is even more telling, as it might highlight some boundary-setting issues you have. 

I know that there are occasions at work where you would LOVE to tell your boss to stuff it, but cannot, so these aren’t necessarily the moments I want you to focus on.  It’s the other ones, where Sally or Bob on your team shuffle another thing your way because they have learned in the past that you’ll “happily” take things off their hands.  Remember, as wise Dr. Phil says, we teach people how to treat us, so does your guilt or worries about what someone will think if you do say “no”, teaching that person that your time is less valuable than theirs? 

Or do you need to delegate more?  And this applies to your life outside of work as well.  Does your need to have things a certain way (i.e. “perfect”) create way more work for you than needed?  I always like to remind people that Martha Stewart will NEVER come over and look in your linen closet, so let your 10-year-old have a go at folding the towels.  If you don’t have an avalanche the next time you open the door, then there’s 15 minutes you have freed up for yourself.

I don’t want to place blame on you and make you feel guilty, but having spare time, or not, is ultimately up to you.  Maybe it means employing better time-management techniques (heck, there has to be at least 4356 apps out there for your smartphone to try!), or even just making a list in your phone of things you have to do.  I have started doing this because I cannot count how many times I have gotten to the grocery store and remembered exactly where on the counter I have left my list of stuff I needed.  And we all know we’re rarely without our electronic devices. 

Figure out what you really value in life, and make sure each day you do one or two activities that reflect these things.  One of my favourite exercises from facilitating came from one of my EAP’s, and that is taking a moment to reflect on a day which really stands out in your memory.  What was it about this day that made it so special?  What were you doing?  Who were you with?  You’ll find that in all likelihood, that day tended to some of your key values in life.  If you aren’t sure what your values are (and don’t worry, when I ask people this, I often get the sound of crickets as an answer), have a look at this site*:

All I know, is that at the end of the day, when I’m sittin’ back at 80 rockin’ in my rocking chair, I want to look back on my life and think “Yeehaw!  I sure showed `em how it’s done!” (and it appears that when I reach this age, I will also become a Texan).  We all want to live a proactive not reactive life, right?  Well, that also means carvin out some “me time” and sticking to it!  Throw out the guilt, and be OK with being “selfish” – no one else is going to do this for you!  Even 15 minutes at the end of each day to have a bubble bath, or call your Mom will do.  This doesn’t have to be huge.  But it most certainly can be life-altering!


*I have no association with this site and have only included it for its list of values

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